- Paperback: 152 pages
- Publisher: OUP Oxford (28 Oct. 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0192804553
- ISBN-13: 978-0192804556
- Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.3 x 10.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 410,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
Kafka: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 28 Oct 2004
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About the Author
Ritchie Robertson is a Professor of German at Oxford University and a Fellow of St John's College. He has published books on Kafka, Heine, and Thomas Mann, as well as The Jewish Question in German Literature (OUP, 1999). He has translated several eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German authors into English for the Oxford World Classics and Penguin Classics series
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Top Customer Reviews
There seems to be an idea in circulation that Kafka was some kind of unhinged outsider who wrote as a form of personal therapy. This book comprehensively debunks this kind of myth. It shows how Kafka's ideas on authority, the family, marriage and work offer powerful insights into modern life, though conveyed through highly expressive artistic means rather than through tracts or essays. It shows how hard Kafka worked at his art, and how seriously he took his calling.
I have only one quibble, and that is that the chapter on 'institutions' opens by conflating institutions with organizations. Carl Menger (active in Kafka's time) pointed out that organic institutions can evolve without having a definite goal or objective. Modern social theorists and economists debate the role of institutions such as promise-keeping in society and in markets. It seems that Kafka was also much concerned in his work with social norms and how they constrain individual behaviour.
The book is split into chapters by theme - Kafka's life, ways in which critics have thought about his work in light of Freudian ideas, and themes such as 'bodies' and 'institutions' which feature most often in his works. As such it is far more engaging than some other books which focus too heavily on the biographical aspect. Each chapter is short enough to be read on a relatively short train journey, but intellectually stimulating enough to leave the reader with questions which persist after the chapter is finished.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book is that it does not try to teach you the 'meaning' of the novels, which is a flawed business where Kafka is concerned and which would be impossible in such a short space of time, but rather how to read them in a way that allows you to draw your own conclusions. To do this, the book incorporates several short examples of Kafka's writing followed by an analysis which allows you to see how it might be possible to read a seemingly impenetrable text - one of the strengths of this book. The further reading list is another wonderful inclusion.
Since Kafka is - well, not the easiest author to understand - I found this summing-up of some of the main interpretations very useful. Both concise, to-the-point as well as easy-to-understand, this work of Ritchie Robertson was absolutely vital to me when writing the assignment. I especially liked some of the more thourogh parts concerning bodies and institutions in Kafka's works.
Hilsener fra Norge!
Greetings from Norway!
I was under immense time pressure to learn about Kafka before a forthcoming university interview so this book was ideal as it wasted no time and got straight into analysing and evaluating his stories as well as giving a brief historical background to aid understanding of the sometimes challenging texts.
Kafka has become one of my favourite authors and even though i have now read nearly all of the published works of Kafka, i still reference this great little book all the time.
It and the others in the series are fantastic little books which are very good value and excellent resources!!!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beyond the obvious purpose of this book - offering a concise and thought provoking introductory survey to Kafka's disturbing work - it has the added advantage of encapsulating the... Read morePublished on 18 Oct. 2012 by Christopher H
This is a useful modern introduction to the life and work of Franz Kafka by a respected academic. Ritchie Robertson outlines the biography, sets the author's work in the context of... Read morePublished on 30 Sept. 2012 by Paul Bowes
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